To my right is Michael Kerrigan winemaker for Howard Park and on my left sits Henri Chapon, something very important in the Du Vin hotel chain
. I polish off the last of the aperitif – Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc 2005
– as the first course arrives.
Du Vin hosts regular wine making dinners across the estate this, covering the wines of Western Australia’s Howard Park wines, just happened to be in their Henley branch – built in part of the old Brakspear Brewery.
Being seated next to the winemaker was a coup; had a great chat about his aims for the estate, his constraints (more terroir based than anything) , his passions (a white wine lover) and his hates (don’t mention Pinot Gris!), screw-caps verses cork (“who cares? The debate is over”) and future plans (“Nebbiolo and Tempranillo; but it takes an age to get cuttings into WA”). And it’s nice to get his views on each wine as they were poured.
Howard Park is the premium range; the more familiar Madfish Bay comes from the same people. Grapes are sourced from two distinct regions that of Margaret River south of Perth in Western Australia and the lesser known Mount Barker down on the south coasts aptly named Great Southern region. While the soils are similar – for those who relish in such things it is a mix of gravely loams and loamy sands – the climate between the two are where the variations arise. While Margaret River is maritime influenced by the warm currents from the Indian Ocean, Mount Barker is cooler taking its influences from the cooler waters to the south.
Howard Park Riesling, 2004, Western Australia
Served with Jambon persillé, mixed leaf salad and mango salsa.
Sourced from some of the coolest vineyards in Mount Barker (because “Margaret River Riesling is just plain awful”) this is just bursting with lime, hints of petrol, pear, orange. Steely. Pure clean flavours and a six year or so cellaring potential. Made from free-run juice only to ensure the best quality.
Howard Park Chardonnay, 2004, Western Australia
Served with baked cod with marinated baby fennel and sauce vièrge
Having followed the ‘heavy-oak’ crowd in the mid 1990’s, which resulted in “bloody awful” wines a change of direction (no malolatic fermentation, less time on lees) in 1998 has led to this little wonder. Barrel-fermented it may be but the influence is restrained resulting in a vibrant, fresh wine, more enjoyable with food. Sourced from two vineyards with six blocks having different aspects. Not one for excessive aging.
Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Great Southern
Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Western Australia
Served with Char-grilled sirloin of beef with cabbage Aumonière of braised veal and pommes fondants
With production from the selected vineyards amounting to just 1000 cases a year the Scotsdale is a rather exclusive bottle. But it is the Western Australian Cabernet that is deemed the flagship red. The Scotsdale has a more earthy complexity compared to the refined nature of the flagship but both are ‘long, complex and seductive’. Both worked superbly with the succulence of the perfectly grilled steak. I absolutely adored the cabbage stuffed with veal.
Howard Park Leston Shiraz, 2003, Western Australia
Served with Dark chocolate Marquis, crème Chantilly and Griottines
With only experimental dessert wines made (“a late harvest Riesling – an old ladies wine”) and botrytis “generally not working – turns to slime” a brave choice to match the single estate Shiraz with a dark chocolate dessert. While the chocolate retained a lovely bitterness and was hardly sweet I don’t think the match quite worked; the wine didn’t quite have enough rich/sweet fruit to cope. Not a hideous match by any measure though.
A single vineyard wine offering a range of exquisite flavours. A hint of chocolate complexity is where I guess the sommelier gained his inspiration. Ripe plum flavours and soft tannins make the wine highly drinkable.
Suggested Retail Prices
- Howard Park Riesling £9.99
- Howard Park Chardonnay £12.99
- Howard Park Cabernet Sauvignon £24.99
- Howard Park Leston Shiraz £11.99
- Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon £11.99
The Madfish Bay range, which includes Riesling, Pinot Noir, Shiraz et al are widely available at £8.99 a bottle. Contact Bibendum Wines for stockists in the UK or to buy direct.
Howard Park website : www.howardparkwines.com.au